Purim is the Halloween of Israel except it’s ten times more fun. Everyone gets really into it here and it lasts almost an entire week instead of just one day. From Tuesday until Saturday of this week I saw little children, angsty teenagers, and working adults walking around in outrageous and creative costumes. The holiday is based on a ancient story that seemingly doesn’t have anything to do with dressing up, but I know you are supposed to drink a lot during the holiday.
On Tuesday all of the kids came to school in their costumes. Amanda and I had borrowed (and washed) shirts from the lost and found and took two school hats so we could dress up as students. The kids seemed to enjoy our costume, their eyes lighting up every time they realized we were dressed as them. My two favorite costumes were mustard and a hot air balloon. The whole day was one giant party and school ended early at 1130. That was it for school for the week, we had Wednesday to Friday off.
That night my roommates and I spoke about going out. I mean Purim is all about drinking until you can’t tell the difference between good and evil, so we figured we had to go out and try it. We were all going away for Purim vacation so Tuesday was the only night we would all be home and had nothing to do early Wednesday morning. As 8pm rolled around I started to get really tired and had the desire to just lay in bed and watch Netflix. I didn’t want to miss out on a roomie night out but I also did not feel like taking off my sweatpants and putting on skinny jeans and make up.
I asked my roommates if they just wanted to stay in and watch TV with me. Or better yet. I proposed a wine and cheese night. I would go to the supermarket and get all the supplies and all they would have to do was not go out and keep me company. It didn’t take too much convincing, Kayleigh, Mona, and Iris were all done with the new idea. I mean drinking wine counted as going out, right?
The cheese plate was amazing. Mona and I went a little crazy at the supermarket but it was worth it. Basically I paid my friends to stay in and hang out with me instead of going out, but it was definitely worth it.
On Wednesday morning I took the bus to Tel Aviv to meet my boyfriend. We hung out in the city for a little and ate at my favorite hummus place. It’s just down the street from where my brother used to live in Florintine and it was incredible. Then we just rested as we had a big trip planned for the next day.
On Thursday we set off on our trip to the Galilee, or the Kinneret in Hebrew, which is in the North. Ran’s dad’s friend owns a bunch of tzimmers there so that’s where we were staying. A tzimmer is basically a little cabin or cottage on a kibbutz in the north. They have them all over and have them for couples or for families. It’s nicer than staying in a hotel room because it’s more private and also a lot quieter. Tzimmers are really romantic and it’s homey because you are staying on a kibbutz or in a small town where there are only 7 or 8 other tzimmers. Our tzimmer was in Arbel, right next to Tiberias and literally overlooking the Kinneret. It was so beautiful and quiet. We could hear cows a few feet away from us whenever we opened our front door. It was a cute little farm in a tiny town. Very quiet and peaceful and much different from Tel Aviv.
On the drive up we stopped in Haifa for lunch. We ate in the German Colony which is right at the bottom of the Ba’hai gardens. I made friends with a little cat who I kept throwing my leftover grilled chicken too.
After Haifa we drove to Mount Tavor (or Tabor depending on where you see it). We drove on these crazy windy roads to get to the top. Some of the roads were so steep I thought the car would flip over backwards. On top of the mountain is an old church or monastery. I know it’s bad but I honestly don’t know. I more so wanted to go just for the view. It was so pretty and I couldn’t believe how high up we were. My ears were popping the whole drive down the mountain.
After Mount Tabor we headed to the Kinneret. I was awestruck when I saw how green the North was. Everywhere I looked there were were grassy fields where cows or horses were grazing. There were giant green hilltops looking over the bright blue Kinneret, it was one of the most beautiful things I had seen in Israel. We drove to Arbel and met Ran’s dad’s friend who showed us to our cabin. It was small and homey. The best part about it was that there was a jacuzzi inside the bathroom. I love taking baths. At home I usually take a bath a week, it just relaxes me whenever I am feeling anxious or stressed. I have not been able to take a bath since arriving in Israel as the bathtub in my apartment is a little scary and who knows how old it is. But the jacuzzi was clean and giant. I took two baths within the first 12 hours of being there.
We hung out in the tzimmer for a few hours. We were tired from all our traveling that day. Then we went down to Tiberias for dinner. Tiberias is right on the Kinneret and there is a pretty boardwalk along the water. The Promenade (as it is called) was really crodwed because of Purim and there were a lot of kids running around, playing soccer, and spraying shaving cream. So, our visit to the boardwalk was short. We ate at this amazing Chinese restaurant for dinner, right on the water with the full moon in the background. After dinner we got crepes on the boardwalk, picked up some snacks for the room, and went back to the tzimmer to watch a movie. The best part of the night was when Ran let me drive around Arbel a little bit. It had been my first time driving in six months and I forgot how much I missed it.
The next day, Friday, we had a lot of fun things planned. The day started off great with a home cooked breakfast by the owners of the tzimmer. We had a bunch of fresh salads, bread, and omelets with whatever we wanted in them. After breakfast we drove a quick five minutes to the Arbel cliffs. These cliffs are historical because there are caves in them where Jews hid thousands (I think) years ago to hide from the Romans. The cliffs were just insane. I literally felt like I was both on top of the world and in a scene from The Lord of The Rings. The Cliffs had an amazing view of the Kinneret and also the small towns below.
After the Cliffs we drove a little south to Beit Zera, a small kibbutz just below the Kinneret. We were told that they had a little zoo there and you were able to go into the monkey cages. I was immediately sold. Ran and I were the only visitors above the age of 7 but it was totally worth it. There were turtle, peacocks, and chickens just walking freely around. There was an exhibit of baby goats and I was so tempted to break in and steal one. But the best part was the monkeys. I had to take everything out of my pockets so that the monkeys wouldn’t steal anything. There wasn’t anyone who worked at the zoo monitoring the monkey cages so it was a little daunting to just walk in there. Ran didn’t want to go so he was in charge of holding my bag and taking pictures. I walked inside and immediately one little guy climbed onto my arm and then my head. There were also giant toucans just hanging out in the cage. It was amazing, they were so soft and little (the monkeys, not the toucans. I was a little afraid of the giant birds).
After the monkeys we walked around a little more and saw some giant turtles trying to mate and two chickens having a fight. I then opted to go back into the monkey cage one more time. I ended up having to help a monkey get back inside as he was stuck in the little hallway entrance separating the outside from the inside of the cage. He grabbed onto my arm and held on tightly unit we were back in the cage. He tried to steal one of my bracelets right off my wrist but I caught him.
After the zoo we stopped for lunch at a rest stop and drove north to Agamay Achula. It’s a big reserve right near the base of Mount Hermon. There are supposed to be thousands of birds there they fly in giant flocks but I guess it wasn’t the season because we only saw about 10 birds the whole time. We rented a golf cart to drive around the giant reserve. I think the golf cart may have been one of the best parts of the trip. We took turns driving, stopping every so often to take some scenic pictures.
Although there weren’t that many birds there the area was unbelievable. There were so many flowers and ponds, it was just really pretty. And it had a great view of Hermon which still had some snow dotted around its peak. Halfway through the reserve we were stopped by a family. They told us that their four year old daughter was too tired to keep riding her bike and asked if she could join us on the golf cart. I was surprised she had made it that far on a tricycle to begin with because if I had been riding a regular bike I would have stopped long before. It was really hot at that point and she was wearing what looked like a ninja turtle costume for Purim so she must have been really hot. We said of course, and our new passenger, Danielle joined us on our ride.
Her family road their bikes close behind us so that she didn’t get scared but she didn’t seem to mind riding in a golf cart with complete strangers at all. She was so cute, I kept on trying to sneak and take pictures of her.
After we finished the golf cart ride we said goodbye to Danielle and her family. We ate some Pita Druzen (Druz pita, which is basically pita filled with labane, tzatar, and oil). It’s Ran’s favorite and I had never had it before. So when we saw a stand right outside of the reserve we knew we had to get some. It was pretty late at that point so we drove back to the tzimmer to of course take another bath and rest before dinner.
For dinner that night we went to another farm area just around the corner from where we were staying. This family also owned tzimmers and a restaurant. It wasn’t like a normal restaurant though because they only served dinner between 7-730pm as it is just a dad, mom, and son running the place. The restautany was so tiny and cute. I didn’t feel like I was in Israel but rather on a winery in the Napa Valley. The food was amazing. We started with some pate as an appetizer. Ran had steak for dinner and I had a veal stew. It was amazing.
On Saturday we woke up late, ate another great home cooked breakfast, and then headed home. On the way we stopped near Beit Shein to go to a kangaroo zoo suitably named Gan Garu. Not only did I get to feed and pet kangaroos, but I also fed baby goats and saw some koalas snoozing away. Ran and I tried the maze they had there but ended up cheating at the end and slipping out between two bushes.
Then we began the drive back to Tel Aviv. On the way we stopped on the side of the road to pick up more Druzen pita which was more authentic than the stand outside of the bird reserve. There was an old lady making the pita from scratch and then cooking it on a round hot ball as you ordered. YUM!
My vacation up North was so much fun and definitely one of the best vacations I have ever been on! I can’t wait to go back and stay at another tzimmer hopefully one day soon!